Bolts: Game 2 isn't 'must win'

Updated: May 27, 2004, 12:18 AM ET
Associated Press

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Lightning understand how important it is to rebound from their Game 1 loss in the Stanley Cup finals.

Just don't try to convince coach John Tortorella that his team has to win Game 2 Thursday night to have a realistic shot at capturing the NHL's biggest prize.

"I don't like that 'must win,'" Tortorella said Wednesday. "What happens if something doesn't happen the right way for us tomorrow, and what do I come back to my team with?"

The Lightning lost the opener of the best-of-seven series 4-1 to the Calgary Flames, hardly resembling the team that breezed through the first two rounds of the playoffs before outlasting the Philadelphia Flyers in a tough seven-game Eastern Conference final.

The offense sputtered and the defense -- an underrated aspect of Tampa Bay's success this season -- faltered, too.

Goalie Nikolai Khabibulin allowed four goals in just 19 shots, and the speedy Flames kept the defenseman in front of him on their heels much of the night.

"To me, Calgary played the way they played to get here. We didn't," Tortorella said, adding the message he would deliver to players at practice was simple: Move on.

"We have two weeks to play and you can't get all convoluted and worried about what just happened to you. You have got to figure out a response. ... It's not being down in a ditch when you lose, and it's not being 10 feet tall when you win. It's keeping an even keel and finding a way to approach the next day."

Captain Dave Andreychuk said any changes will not be drastic, adding the biggest adjustment the Lightning need to make is playing with a little more desperation.

Tortorella said it's important for him to remember what the team did to get here, and not tinker with the lineup just for the sake of changing something that didn't work in Game 1.

"We want to get the momentum back in the series. By winning a game we can do that," Andreychuk said.

"We talked about how important it is to address it now, to not wait until our backs are against the wall to have a must-win. The message that we're sending out in our room is that we have to go for it now and not wait and see what happens. That's the attitude we've taken all playoffs."

One player the Lightning is counting on to have a bigger impact is NHL scoring champion Martin St. Louis, who had gone five games without scoring a goal until he broke through on a power-play in the third period Tuesday night.

Although he has a league-leading 19 points during the playoffs, he doesn't feel he's played particularly well since Tampa Bay's first-round win over the New York Islanders.

"It has been a long playoff and my game has gone up and down, but I feel my game is on the way back up," St. Louis said. "I know last night was a loss, but I did something I hadn't done in a while. I'm going to take that into Game 2 and hopefully capitalize on the chances I get."

Tortorella said it's just a matter of time before St. Louis starts scoring consistently again. The coach also expects Khabibulin to bounce back.

"Last time I saw Nikolai Khabibulin ... maybe fight it a bit, I liked his response. That was in the Philly series," Tortorella said.

"So I don't even worry about that. He will be there. I think he will be our best player and he will lead us, I guess, in our response in Game 2."


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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